The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) reiterates its support for LIFE, the European programme dedicated to the environment and climate change, and calls for a budget increase after 2020.
At the mid-term evaluation of the LIFE programme, the CoR called on the European Commission (EC) to increase the allocation of funds to action grants under the LIFE programme for Nature and Biodiversity and to increase its overall budget after 2020. The CoR reaffirmed its position on the role of LIFE in tackling the uneven and inadequate implementation and enforcement of environment legislation in the Member States. The President of the Łódzkie Region Witold Stępień (PL/EPP) is the rapporteur of the LIFE opinion, adopted during CoR’s plenary session in Brussels on 9 February 2017.
The Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is taking an active role in the midterm evaluation of the LIFE programme, EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU. The adopted opinion was requested by the European Commission, providing local and regional leaders with the opportunity to make recommendations based on their experience and expertise in implementing environmental law in Europe.
The EU’s assembly of local and regional authorities has expressed its concern over the limited budget of LIFE, which during the Multiannual Work Programme (MAWP) 2014-2020 represents only 0.3% of the total amount of the commitment appropriations. Local leaders have renewed their 2012 call for a substantial increase in the programme’s budget and strongly recommend maintaining and strengthening the sub-programme on climate action after 2020 due to the increasing needs to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Witold Stępień (PL/EPP), president of the Polish region of Łódzkie and rapporteur of the adopted opinion said: “We welcome the two new financial instruments, the Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) and the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), which offer a new opportunity to bring private investors in and fund energy-efficiency and natural capital projects. Rapporteur Stępień considers the new financial instruments in the LIFE programme as a way to “trigger a general shift towards green finance”. However, on the overall budget, Witold Stępień “remains very concerned that the total budget allocated to LIFE Nature and Biodiversity 2014-2020 is around EUR 1.155 billion, while the EC has estimated that EUR 5.8 billion of annual investments are needed for the entire Natura 2000 network”.
The LIFE programme plays an important role in promoting eco-innovation and developing new solutions in the area of environmental protection and climate. In that sense, president Stępień has also highlighted that “the development of the circular economy, as outlined in the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan, will indeed require public and private sources of financing to scale up improved technologies and processes, develop infrastructure and increase cooperation between actors in the value chain”.
“The LIFE programme strengthens Europe’s natural capital and aims to help generate green jobs and local entrepreneurship yet we need to better support the market uptake of LIFE innovation projects” recalled Witold Stępień.
Thereupon, the European Committee of the Regions asks the European Commission to increase the long–term sustainability, replicability and transferability of LIFE projects in order to further enhance the overall performance of the programme. Local and regional leaders recommend the further development of an online “innovation platform” to help with the search of replicable eco-ideas and the creation of thematic networks of projects around priority areas.
LIFE is part of the Europe 2020 strategy and a political priority of the European Committee of the Regions to promote smart growth and sustainable jobs.